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Collections - MF 162 Immigrants and Identity (2005)

Number of Interviews:  15

Dates when interviews were conducted:  February to June 2005

Time period covered:  second half of 20th century to 2005

Principal interviewers:  Pauleena MacDougall, Maria Sandweiss, Katherine Durbin, Elizabeth Hardink

Finding aides: transcripts

Access restrictions:  none

Description:  In 2005 the Maine Folklife Center and the Hudson Museum at the University of Maine proposed to study and present the ways that immigrants in central and eastern Maine connect themselves with their ethnicity.  These fifteen interviews were conducted from February to June 2005 by the Maine Folklife Center staff with members of the local African, Hispanic, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European immigrant communities in preparation for the Folk Festival in August.  An exhibit of panels consisting of interpretive text, excerpts from the oral histories, portrait photos, and objects was prepared by the Hudson Museum.  This exhibit was temporarily moved to the American Folk Festival held on the Bangor Waterfront on August 28 and 29, 2005.  At the festival members of the immigrant communities were invited to the Maine Folklife Center narrative stage to talk about their culture and to demonstrate aspects of their culture (such as food preparation, crafts, music, and dance).  See also NA 3850 for more information about the immigrant community who participated at the Folk Festival in August and for photographs (P9288-P9321) in the photo archives.

3717 Lily Alavi, interviewed by Maria Sandweiss on May 23, 2005 at Alavi’s home in Bangor, Maine.  Alavi was born in Iran and came to the United States in 1993.  Alavi talks about her first impressions when moving to Maine; difficulties in adjusting to new culture; languages; food; Islam; celebrations and holidays; work as a real estate agent; self identity; different cultures in Middle East; difference between American government and American people. Transcript: 6 pp

3718  Mohammad S. Dar, interviewed by Katherine Durbin on May 8, 2005 in Stillwater Convenience store in Bangor, Maine.  Dar is from Pakistan and came to the United States in 1983.  He talks about his reasons for coming to the United States and then to Maine; arranged marriage; positive experiences; finding other Muslim families; teaching cultural values; comparison between his childhood in Pakistan and that of his children in the United States; Lahore; food and meals as a child in Pakistan; spices; food and meal schedule now in the United States; two identities Pakistan/America; tensions between Muslims and Hindus in Pakistan; social relationships with Americans; Eid; comparison between Pakistan and America. Transcript: 19 pp

3719  Maria Baeza, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall on March 28, 2005 in Baeza’s office in Bangor, Maine.  Baeza was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in Brooklyn, New York.  She came to Maine over 30 years ago when she married a man from Maine.  She talks about her first impression of Maine which was that there were so many white people; culture shock; rural setting after living in a large city; concern with safety; life in Puerto Rico before the age of 5 when she moved to the United States; difference between Puerto Rico and the United States; learning English; living in two cultures; living as a minority; institutionalized racism; ethnocentrism; speaking Spanish; Puerto Rican food; express love and caring through food; learning to cook; Catholic religion; ear piercing; sewing; children’s stories; meeting Spanish-speaking people; aspects of Puerto Rican culture most important to keep; experiences with racism; in Maine people have not grown up around diversity and are ignorant about the minority experience. Transcript: 25 pp

Recording:  CD2510  1 hr 6 min

3720  Olivia Saritvanich, interviewed by Katherine Durbin on February 18, 2005 at Saritvanich’s home in Orono, Maine.  Saritvanich was born in Thailand and emigrated to America with her husband. She is the owner of Thai Orchid, a restaurant in Orono, Maine. Saritvanich talks about immigration in the late 1970s; reasons immigrants can become citizens; immigrant-specific employment; early history of Thailand; European colonization of Southeast Asia; struggles of immigrating to America; American soldiers in Thailand; Thai meals vs. American meals; Thai lifestyle compared to American lifestyle. Transcript: 36 pp

Recordings:  C2654

3721  Maria Sandweiss, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall on April 19, 2005 In the library at the Maine Folklife Center at the University of Maine in Orono.  Sandweiss was born in Peru and moved to Maine in 1993 with her husband.  Sandweiss talks about her first impressions of Maine; speaking English or Spanish with family; living in two cultures; maintaining culture of Peru; Peruvian foods; typical dinner; food cooked in the ground; pachamanca; special cultural objects from Peru; languages spoken in Peru; language and family important parts of culture; stereotypes; diversity; differences and similarities between Peru and the United States. Transcript: 13 pp

Recording:  CD2510  49 min

3722  Maria Rave, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall on April 1, 2005 at Thistles Restaurant in Bangor, Maine.  Rave was born in Colombia and came to Ellsworth in 1985 and moved to Bangor around 2001, She is part owner of Thistles Restaurant and has 2 sons. Topics include language barrier at first in Maine; speaks Spanish and English; university education; difficult for younger son Santiago to adjust to school; both sons graduated from Massachusetts College of Art; Santiago lives at home and manages Thistles; many relatives in the United States; helped with adjustment to new culture; difficulty finding ingredients for Colombian food at first; beans and plantains; Catholic religion; important personal objects from Colombia; ruined; climate in Colombia; needlework; dancing; tango; husband from Argentina; stories about Colombia; differences in the way of doing things in Colombia and the United States; many friends who are foreigners; more Spanish speaking people coming to Bangor last 5 years; celebrate New Year with friends at Thistles; encourages families to speak both English and Spanish; love for family; wants people to know the good things about Colombia; husband Alejandro is international chef who also sings, dances, plays piano. Transcript:  21 pp

Recording:  CD2510  47 min

Photos: P9301-P9306

3723  Norma Peters, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall on May 12, 2005 at the home of Peters in Veazie, Maine.  Peters was born in Cartagena, Colombia.  Topics include the differences between living in Panama and Colombia; differences in education; learning to speak English; marriage and children; first impressions of Maine; difficulty finding work; lived in Hampden and six years later moved to Bangor; teaching children Spanish; discrimination in Maine; making friends; teaching children to be proud of their heritage; cultural traditions; favorite foods from Colombia; going to Spanish restaurants in Florida; celebrating holidays; family stories; smoking cigars; difference between living in Colombia and the United States; what to tell people in the United States about Colombia and what to tell people in Colombia about the United States; trips to visit Colombia; attending Catholic church; learning to drive. Transcript: 19 pp

Recording:  CD2510  58 min

3724  Eric Li, interviewed by Elizabeth Hardink on June 5, 2005 at his home in Bangor, Maine. Li was born in Hong Kong, China and lived there until he was 8. Topics  covered include comparison of Chinese and American cultures; favorite foods; came to the United States with his father around 1989; lived in New York; moved to Madawaska, Maine when he was in sixth grade; father owns Chinese restaurant in Madawaska named Tang’s Palace; comparison of city life in New York and Hong Kong; discrimination toward Asians in Maine schools; change in Hong Kong when People’s Republic of China took over; past communism compared to communism today in China; Chinese adapting to American culture. Transcript: 27 pp

3725  Delia Michaud, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall on June 21, 2005 in Michaud’s home.  Michaud was born in San Juan, a province of Argentina and came to the United States in 1970. At first she lived in Houston, Texas and then moved to Maine.  Topics include cultural differences between Argentina and the United States; struggle of switching over from speaking Spanish to speaking only English; first experiences with Maine winter; highlights of Argentinean culture; family life in San Juan; importance of knowing many languages; artifacts from Argentinean culture; tango and milonga dances; crafts from Argentina; needle crafts done by Argentinean women; preparation of matambre; guiso; Maria Rave from Brazil and Hernan Rave (brother of Alejandro Rave) from Argentina. Transcript: 17 pp

Recording:  CD2510  39 min

3726  Mihail Margaronis, interviewed by Maria Sandweiss on May 31, 2005 at the Bangor House of Pizza which is owned by Margaronis.  He was born in Greece on the island of Aegina and came to Maine in 1976. Topics covered include adapting to Maine after growing up in Greece; cultural Greek items; being a citizen from multiple countries; Greek community in Bangor, Maine; Greek national identity compared to American; Greek opinion on American government and American people. Transcript: 10 pp

3727 Lilian Lo, interviewed by Elizabeth Hardink on April 16, 2005.  Lo was born in Hong Kong and spent her first twenty four years there. She came to Maine in 1981.  She and her husband Victor own Oriental Jade, a Chinese restaurant in Bangor, Maine. Topics covered include working for a real estate business in Hong Kong; Hong Kong becoming more liberal; cultural differences in China from the 70s to the 90s; Hong Kong’s shift toward international food in recent times; Hong Kong immigrants during the 90s from political instability; adapting to American culture from Hong Kong; women’s rights in Chinese culture, past and present; Chinese opinion on education and its costs; change of importance of marriage and kids in Chinese culture; American media in Hong Kong; Chinese view on American work ethics; popularity behind the Oriental Jade in Bangor; difficulties of having a Chinese restaurant in Bangor. Transcript: 29 pp

3728 Aniko Fulep interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall on May 16, 2005 in Fulep’s home in Hampden, Maine. Fulep was born in Hungary in 1971 and came to the United States in 1996.  Topics covered include emigrating from Budapest, Hungary to Maine; benefits of rural Maine compared to life in Budapest; view of Maine people compared to most American people; learning English in Hungary; life during the fall of Communism in Hungary; adjusting to American culture; speaking English around children vs. speaking Hungarian around them; typical Hungarian dishes; traditional Hungarian items in the household; Hungarian crafts and media; aspects of Hungarian culture that are important to keep in America; unique qualities of Hungarian language; European views of American culture. Transcript: 18 pp

3729 Iolanta Biderman, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall on February 14, 2005 in Pauleena’s office at the University of Maine. Biderman lived in the U.S.S.R. until she was 4 years old.  Topics covered include living in the Ukraine and Kazakhstan with relatives; Kazakhstan culture; moving to Moscow at 17 to go to college; Soviet turmoil and the effect on Russians in Latvia in 1989; working for a shipping company in Latvia; Russians being removed from Latvia; meeting her American husband in Latvia through the Coast Guard; depression in Moscow leading to loss of jobs; moving to the United States and wanting to teach at a Florida university; moving with her husband to Maine for his job; raising her Latvian son in American culture; wanting her son to learn world literature and history  like she did in her childhood schools; going back to school at the University of Maine; Russian culture’s less strict structure for young people; economic struggles in Maine and her job as a tutor in Bangor Education Department; difficulty finding a job in Maine due to being Russian and a woman; desire to leave Maine because it is not for Russians; difference in Russian and American cooking. Transcript: 20 pp

3730 Nuam Wen (Mabel) Cen, interviewed by Elizabeth Hardink in  Mabel’s apartment in Bangor, Maine.  Mabel is from Canton, China and was born in 1984.  Topics include differences in the Chinese and American education systems; Chinese people want to be rich; hard workers in China;  prostitution is common there; Chinese dress is very modern and similar to American dress; Mabel’s family chose to come to the United States because her uncle lived here; her uncle opened a Chinese restaurant in Madawaska, Maine; Mabel’s family came to the United States to make money; difficulty of not speaking any English; easier for younger generations to learn English; women’s role in China; employment for women in China. Transcript: 19 pp

3731 Katya Begitova, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall on May 11, 2005 in her home.  Katya was born in Moscow and moved to Bar Harbor, Maine in 2000. Topics  covered include difficulty of working in Maine without being able to speak English; meeting her husband while working in Maine; being multicultural as a Russian in America; struggles and strategy to learning a new language; meeting other immigrants with similar backgrounds; Russian cooking compared to American; Russian crafts; differences in Russian holidays and dress; generosity of Russian parents; kids in Russia compared to America; diversity in Russia and the United States. Transcript: 15 pp

Recording:  CD2510  37 min


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